New residential development named after Latino trailblazer opens in commercial corridor in North Philly
Offering affordable housing to those with intellectual disabilities and those age 55 or older, Rafael Porrata-Doria Place is set in a key commercial district.
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On May 30, 2023, members of HACE CDC and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) came together to celebrate the completion of their $10 million affordable housing development: Rafael Porrata-Doria Place.
Located within North Philadelphia’s Fairhill neighborhood, the new project offers 30 affordable housing units for those aged 55+ and for those with intellectual disabilities.
Additionally, it provides 2,200 square feet of commercial space, done so to bring small businesses to El Centro de Oro Commercial Corridor, a center for Latino arts, culture goods, and services within the Philadelphia region.
Prior to its redevelopment, the location was host to a nightclub, prior to its collapse. The new housing development is located within a commercial corridor — a concentrated area of business activity in a neighborhood.
“The pandemic has really affected the business community terribly. By having housing in the commercial corridor, it increases visitation [and] increases economic opportunities for the businesses that are here in the corridor,” HACE President Maria N. Gonzalez said in an interview with AL DÍA.
HACE is a nonprofit that invests in neighborhoods to create just and equitable environments for residents and small businesses across Eastern North Philadelphia.
Founded in 1982, they have created affordable housing and commercial space development, provided supportive services, supported small businesses, and fostered resident/stakeholder engagement.
The reason the new housing development seeks residents aged 55+ or with intellectual disabilities is because HACE’s other housing developments for seniors have age requirements for residents to be 62 or older, Gonzalez explained.
While those aged 55 or older qualify as “elders,” they would be forced to wait to be housed elsewhere, in locations that have waitlists of three to five years.
“We're able to serve a subset of the population that's not being served, and there's even less housing for people with intellectual disabilities. So I think this is a win-win to be able to provide housing to people that otherwise cannot qualify for subsidized senior housing,” Gonzalez said.
The development's name is a dedication to Rafael Porrata-Doria, Jr. Esq., a founding member of HACE, and longtime professor of law at Temple University.
When asked about the naming, Porrata-Doria confessed to feeling bashful about the attention brought to his contributions to the new building.
“The last 40 years have really been a group effort. It’s been led by the community, it has involved the community, it has involved a lot of folks who have donated their time and their effort. And a lot of our private sector partners who have helped us make these buildings are reality,” Porrata-Doria said in an interview with AL DÍA.
“However, I am very proud, because the 5th street corridor has changed so much for the better and revitalized itself since the first time we were involved in the 5th Street mall,” he continued.
Over the past 35 years, Porrata-Doria has served on HACE's board of directors, striving to be a leader in both his community and within the legal field, and previously served as the first president of the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania
Porrata-Doria has also been inducted into the Academia Puertorriqueña de Jurisprudencia y Legislación for his research contributions to law reform and progress in Puerto Rico, making him one of the seven scholars outside Puerto Rico to be recognized by the academy.
He has also been named as one of Delaware Valley's "Most Influential Latinos" by Impacto Latin Newspaper.
Funding for the new housing development was raised through the Philadelphia Division of Housing and Community Development, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, the National Equity Fund, the Philadelphia Housing Authority, PA Department of Community and Economic Development, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation.